Album of pressed seaweed specimens collected in New South Wales and Victoria, circa 1860.
Small quarto, 240 x 200 mm, original half green calf over marbled papered boards ruled in gilt, upper board with ornate green calf title label lettered in gilt ‘SEA WEEDS’, marbled pastedowns and endpapers, front pastedown with binder’s ticket of ‘Oldland & May, Corn St., Bristol’; verso of front endpaper with pencilled initials ‘C-JBW’, apparently in a later hand but possibly denoting the early Port Phillip seaweed collector John Bracebridge Wilson; containing 78 pressed marine algae specimens on paper sheets laid in on rectos of  leaves watermarked ‘T. & J. H. 1859’, most accompanied by their scientific names and classifications in manuscript in ink, a number with collection locations indicated in pencil, including ‘Shark Beach, Sydney’; ‘Parsley Bay, Sydney’; ‘NSW’; ‘Sydney NSW’; ‘Manly Beach, Port Jackson’; ‘Rose Bay’; and ‘Coolart’ [Westernport, Victoria]; the specimens are generally very well preserved, the leaves with some inevitable foxing; an old auction label from Sydney auction house James R. Lawson is loosely inserted at the rear.
A superb and rare album, which not only documents a popular collecting genre of the nineteenth century, but is also valuable in terms of its significance for Australian marine science. The specimens with specific field locations – around Sydney Harbour or Westernport, southeast of Melbourne – are interspersed throughout the whole album, which strongly suggests that all of the specimens were collected in either New South Wales or Victoria. The manner in which the locations are worded would seem to confirm that the compiler of the album was a local who resided in one of these Colonies, rather than a visitor from England. Although the album leaves have a watermark date of 1859, the specimens were probably collected and pressed earlier in the 1850s, before being laid into the album around 1860. The collector’s handwriting is stylistically typical of the 1850s. It seems plausible that the album was compiled by John Bracebridge Wilson (1828-1895), who arrived in Melbourne from England in 1857. Wilson, who became headmaster of Geelong Grammar, was a keen amateur naturalist and noted collector of seaweed specimens. (For a biographical sketch, see the entry on John Bracebridge Wilson in the ADB online).